You’re waiting in line at a cafe to order a cup of coffee.
It’s taking a long time… A really long time.
Normally, you’re in and out in under 3 minutes. You enjoy soaking up those last moments of peace for yourself as you walk to work, sipping your coffee against the calm morning light before the hustle of the day sets in.
On this occasion however, you’ve been waiting in line for 10 minutes.
You look towards the front and spot the cause of your delay. One person, taking – and I don’t think I’m overexaggerating here – a literal eternity to place their order.
In this moment, you realize you don’t have time for your daily walk anymore. You sigh as you realize you’ll be forced to call an uber to make it to work on time. All because this person didn’t make up their mind before getting to the front of the line.
Your mind racing through all the adjustments you’ll now have to shift in your day, you might think:
“Why don’t they have more baristas to move this line along faster?”
“What’s taking this person so long?”
“How hard is it to order a cup of coffee?”
Your annoyance grows by the second, you distract yourself in an attempt to stay centered in your goals for the day. You compose yourself, only to turn back a few minutes later to find that same person, still taking their sweet time at the front of the line.
Annoyance turns to anger.
“Is this person serious?”
“It takes THIS LONG to place an order?”
“What are they doing? Are they ordering drinks for the entire Yankee Stadium?!?”
“I have to get to work.”
“I have things to do.”
“I want to get my coffee, and be on my way.”
You find your frustration validated and reflected back in the eyes of other people in line, similarly gritting their teeth and shaking their heads.
The person finally leaves, and after 15 minutes of waiting you get to the front of the line.
Courage fueled by irritation at your lost morning, you look the barista in the eye and ask,
“What took so long?”
The barista says, “We’re very sorry. There was a large order for the hospital down the road. Last night there was a bad accident on the highway involving a bus full of children, many of which needed medical attention. The doctors and nurses stayed up all night attending to the children. It took some time getting their order ready since we didn’t have any notice. I apologize.”
Blood rushes to your cheeks. Your demeanor changes.
You look down.
How would you feel after hearing this? It might not be your proudest moment.
This story illustrates a program that runs in us all. It’s the final program in this 4-part series on the 4 Natural Programs. The fourth program is…
Nothing More Important Than Me.
When you’re in line waiting to place your order, you’re thinking about your cup of coffee and your time.
While you might not say it, you believe everyone and everything should move as fast as possible so you can get what you want right away.
When you learned that the delay was for an order being delivered to heroic doctors and nurses staying up all night to treat children, you realized that you were making it all about you.
This goes well beyond waiting in line at Starbucks.
Explore this for yourself and observe your thoughts.
How often is ‘I’, ‘Me’, and ‘Mine’ part of your thoughts?
If you explore this honestly, you’ll find that almost EVERY thought is about you.
And this isn’t your fault! We all learn to see the world through our own eyes. This programming has been instilled in us from birth as we have been raised and taught to view the world as separate from ourselves, with us at the center of it all.
We’d all like to believe we think selflessly about other people, saving the world, ending poverty, etc., but that’s simply not the case.
You might cringe at these words, but I want to tell you there’s nothing wrong with realizing this fact – we’re all raised to be this way. While you might define yourself as the self-sacrificing friend, or the drop-till-you’re-dead hard worker who always puts work first, before family, friends and fun, the truth is that the experience is still about you.
“Jay, this may apply to other people, but not me. I put other people first, and my stress has more to do with providing for my family and making others feel secure and happy.”
I believe that you believe that.
You have all the right intentions, and I applaud you for the care you have for others.
I invite you to explore this honestly and deeply by answering the following questions.
Is it really about making your family feel secure and happy?
Is it so YOU feel a certain way about how you provide for your family?
Do you put work first because you wish to give to your employer without expecting anything in return?
Do you put work first because of what you expect to receive in return? (i.e. job security, promotion, validation, more income)
Do you self-sacrifice by putting others before you because you wish to serve without any personal need?
Do you self-sacrifice because of the validation you receive, and it makes you feel GOOD to serve others, and/or it would make you feel BAD if you didn’t?
When you are honest with yourself and become aware of this, it is life-changing.
Your attempts to feel validated, appreciated, and respected, are the cause of so much of your suffering. All of this unnecessary discomfort comes back to one glaring truth – that YOU depend on external objects for your happiness.
Any resistance we experience is due to this self we all point to as ‘I’, let’s call it the “egoic avatar”, that has needs and wants.
If we were to let go of the avatar, there would be no resistance at all.
Until then, you are operating under a belief that the world should adjust to your needs and that nothing is more important than you. This is a major source of dissatisfaction in your life. When we not only expect, but rely on the world to adjust to our needs in order to be happy, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and endless stress.
Warning: I am NOT saying that you should not care for yourself.
I am NOT saying you are not important.
On the contrary, you must always consider your needs, draw clear boundaries, and take care of yourself so you can best serve others.
You are very important.
If we could take the unfiltered egoic avatar inside of each of us and give it a microphone, here’s what it would say.
I deserve recognition, respect, appreciation, and reward.
Everything around me should work to make me happy.
I am the center of the universe.
We attempt to control everything around us to meet the needs of this avatar – this “Hero”. Any perceived threat to the needs of this avatar causes us unnecessary suffering.
What can you do about it?
Step 1 – Recognize the Avatar Voicing Its Importance
In every instance of wanting to change a belief, mindset, or behavior, the first step is to become aware of the belief, mindset, or behavior.
Notice how thoughts in your mind are constantly playing a tape about what you need, what you want, what you desire, why something is fair or unfair to you, etc.
Recognize that the stories being told in your mind always star you as the main character in a movie, constantly at battle for your happiness and success.
Step 2 – Rewrite the Avatar’s Monologue: Tell An Alternative Story
When in situations that cause difficult emotions, tell yourself an alternative story instead of the default story your thoughts came up with.
If someone cuts you off in traffic, the default story may center you as the victim to this horrible person who doesn’t care about other people.
An alternative story is that the person who cut you off is a soon-to-be father who is rushing his wife to the hospital as she is going into labor.
Both are possible, right?
By doing this, you are shifting your focus from it being all about you, to a more objective approach that doesn’t add so much subjective meaning, personal offence and mental distress to your life.
Step 3 – Let Go of the Avatar’s Belief that Nothing is More Important Than You
The unfiltered egoic avatar in your head is loud, repetitive, and persistent.
Don’t fight the avatar.
Don’t ignore the avatar.
Instead, recognize your strength against this avatar’s egoic neediness. It’s just a voice, after all.
Listen to this avatar without any attachment to it’s message, then Let Go.
Regularly remind yourself that this avatar that sees itself as the center of the universe is a program that’s been instilled in you from birth.
When you do this, you’ll see your colleagues through a completely different lens.
They’ll no longer be pawns your egoic avatar can use to get what you want.
You’ll see them as they are, objectively, and without the filter of the egoic avatar.
This shift allows you to surrender to the experience of life as it happens in this moment. It removes the stress that comes from trying to control everything, and needing everything outside of you to be perfect for you to find happiness.
For this relieves us of the source of so much of our suffering; the ego.
This week, I invite you to become aware of this egoic avatar inside of you. Notice how much suffering you endure because of this avatar. Then, follow the steps above to let go of the avatar and be free of his or her torment.
The 4 Natural Programs are the cause of so much of our stress, anxiety, and lack of productivity. It is possible to override all of these programs. You have the opportunity to be free of the conditioning that has plagued our ability to succeed, grow, and live a happy and fulfilled life.
To read more about the 4 Natural Programs, refer to the articles found here.
My final reminder…
Your programming is not your fault.
But it is your responsibility.
P.S. Ready to break through these programs and unlock your resilience? Schedule a free call and we can have a conversation to determine if working together makes sense. Contact me directly to learn about my 8-week program on how to build resilience during uncertain times.